Earlier this month, the Atlanta Pride Committee announced the kick-off event for 2017 Atlanta Pride: Anne Steele and Matt Alber will perform at City Winery on Friday, Oct. 6. Steele, a lesbian vocalist, wife and mother met Alber, a singer/songwriter/filmmaker based in Portland, on a gay cruise. The pair made a musical as well as friendship connection and enjoy performing together whenever they have the opportunity.
“I fell in love with his voice and his kind heart,” Steele said. “Earlier this year, he was playing San Francisco Pride and asked me to join him in that show. It was a blast. Then I told him how much I wanted to play Atlanta and asked if he wanted to join me. It made sense for us to play during Pride because we are both out artists. So, we reached out to City Winery and Atlanta Pride, and it all fell into place. To be able to start the whole thing off is quite an honor.”
Singers separately working on docu-series, solo tour
Both artists are working on different projects right now.
“I’m working on a new family docu-series about today’s LGBTQ+ teens called ‘Room To Grow,”” Alber said. “We’ve been filming the lives and stories of over 40 amazing individuals in four countries since March and we’re blown away by the brave kids and families we’re meeting. ‘Room To Grow’ premieres this December on YouTube, free for everyone. Next spring, we’ll be taking the series on the road with screenings in schools, churches and community centers nationwide. If folks want to learn more or help us reach the finish line, we have set up a tax-deductible crowd-funding site at moreroomtogrow.org.”
Steele is on the brink of a new tour called “Welcome to the Big Top” that will begin in New York two nights after the Atlanta show. The show features her singing covers and original songs interwoven with stories from her life.
“I feel like my life is like a three-ring circus,” she said. “One minute, I’m on stage with Cyndi Lauper and Boy George at the Beacon Theater and the next minute, I’m driving six teenage girls to dance and stopping on the way to buy tampons.”
In fact, when our interview took place, Steele and her wife, Kelli Carpenter, had just returned from taking their son, Blake, to look at colleges now that he’s a senior in high school. Steele spoke graciously about her work, her wife and co-parenting four children while wrangling the family dog, as if to accentuate the “Big Top” point. In addition to shuttling teens to dance and seniors to college, the couple also just saw their oldest son, Parker, join the Marines.
“He goes to boot camp at the end of October,” Steele said. “The world we’re living in is so scary. It wasn’t our dream for him to have such a dangerous, job but more than anything, he really wants to be a Marine. It’s scary but we will support him where we know he’ll be happy and successful.”
‘Artists wine’ to commemorate show, benefit Pride
After chatting to both artists about influences, the topic shifts to what they’re personally listening to. “I’ve been listening to my brother’s band, Deep Dark Blue, a lot lately,” Alber said.
“I’m super into vinyl right now, so I’m in throwback mode,” Steele said. “I’m listening to a lot of old Madonna, Michael Jackson, Annie Lennox, Culture Club, Erasure, etc. I am truly obsessed with Sara Bareilles. Sara and Adele truly inspire me to be a better writer and to be brave and to share my words. It takes a lot to put your heart out there. It’s so much easier just to interpret someone else’s lyrics because then you never have to let someone inside your own mind and heart.”
Inspiration for these two doesn’t only come in the form of other musicians. On the topic of LGBT heroes, both Alber and Steele can easily name those trailblazers that have won their admiration.
“Armistead Maupin,” Alber said. “His stories helped me find myself when I first moved to San Francisco. He and his partner, Chris, have become dear friends since then. Another hero of mine is Mel White. He wrote a book called ‘Stranger At The Gate’ about his experience as a gay man growing up in the Christian church. It changed my life and opened the door for me to accept and love myself.”
Steele went even closer to home with her answer.
“My wife, Kelli Carpenter, and her business partner, Gregg Kaminsky,” she said. “They started ‘R Family Vacations’ 14 years ago so that gay families could travel together without fear of being judged. Back when it started, the world was a much different place. It was incredible that the kids of gay couples could look around and see families just like theirs. It began as a charter cruise each year, but has since turned into a community. We have watched these children grow up together. Lifelong friendships have been made while taking their annual family vacation.”
Regarding her upcoming show in Atlanta, Steele said, “I have friends who live there. They have been begging me to come for so long. I can’t wait. Matt and I are thrilled to be able to help kick off Pride and to meet everyone!”
City Winery will sell a special bottle of “artists wine” at this event. It will feature Alber and Steele on the label. A portion of the proceeds are traditionally given to a nonprofit that the artist chooses. Alber and Steele asked that their wine proceeds be given to Atlanta Pride.
“We want to encourage everyone to buy the wine,” Steele said. “Not only will Matt and I sign it, but they will be giving back to Pride!”
Atlanta Pride Presents An Evening With Anne Steele and Matt Alber Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. City Winery Atlanta 650 North Ave. N.E. #201 Atlanta, GA 30308 Tickets $20-$35 www.citywinery.com/atlanta